COVID-19 and the Head Start Community

OHS COVID-19 Updates

Effective Oct. 13, 2022, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra has extended the public health emergency that was initially declared on Jan. 27, 2020, and has been renewed every 90 days. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has deeply impacted Head Start and Early Head Start programs, enrolled children and families, and their communities. The Secretary has the authority, under Section 319 of the Public Health Service Act, to determine that a public health emergency exists. Once a declaration is made, it remains in effect for 90 days and can be extended.

Effective March 7, 2023, all Head Start programs are required to have a COVID-19 mitigation strategy, developed in consultation with their Health Services Advisory Committee. Check out the collection of Head Start resources to learn more about how the requirements announced in the Final Rule will help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

This section is regularly updated with guidance and resources from the Office of Head Start (OHS) to help all programs support staff, children, and families during this challenging time.

Latest Updates

1/20/2023: Final Rule on Mitigating the Spread of COVID-19 in Head Start Programs

Watch this webinar to hear OHS leadership discuss the Final Rule on Mitigating the Spread of COVID-19 in Head Start programs. 

1/6/2023: ACF-PI-HS-23-01 Supplementary Information on Establishing an Evidence-based COVID-19 Mitigation Policy

This Program Instruction provides supplementary information to support Head Start grant recipients in developing the required evidence-based COVID-19 mitigation policy. 

1/6/2023: Mitigating the Spread of COVID-19 in Head Start Programs

Read the Final Rule that requires Head Start programs to have an evidence-based COVID-19 mitigation policy, developed in consultation with their Health Services Advisory Committee (HSAC), by March 7, 2023. 

9/21/2022: Litigation Update

As of Sept. 21, 2022, following a decision by the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, implementation and enforcement of Vaccine and Mask Requirements to Mitigate the Spread of COVID-19 in Head Start Programs, 86 Fed. Reg. 68052 (Nov. 30, 2021) (the “Interim Final Rule” or “IFC”), is permanently enjoined in the following 24 states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Head Start, Early Head Start, and Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership grant recipients in those 24 states are not required to comply with the IFC.

9/16/2022: Head Start Mask Announcement

In the near future, the Administration for Children and Families intends to publish a final rule to formally remove the requirement for masking in Head Start programs.

8/29/2022: Pediatric Vaccines and Other COVID-19 Considerations for Program Year 2022-23

View this webinar to learn more about the most up to date COVID-19 health and safety information as well as strategies for increasing pediatric vaccination uptake.

8/22/2022: Masks and Vaccines in Head Start Programs

As the 2022-2023 program year begins, Katie Hamm provides an update on the COVID-19 mitigation requirements for Head Start programs. The Office of Head Start is working hard to finalize these regulations.

7/1/2022: Joint Letter About COVID-19 Vaccinations for Children Ages 6 Months to 5 Years

Read a letter from the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Education (ED) about encouraging parents and guardians to understand and access COVID-19 vaccines for all children 6 months of age and older, which will be available at no cost. It features resources to help early care and education programs connect parents with trusted medical providers, distribute accurate and easy-to-read vaccine information, and partner with community health care providers to host a COVID-19 vaccination clinic.

6/24/2022: Vaccination for Head Start Children

Get the latest CDC guidance on COVID-19 vaccination for children aged 6 months to 5 years. Find resources to share accurate information about the pediatric vaccine.

6/1/2022: Expectations for the 2022-2023 Program Year

Watch this webinar to hear updated guidance from OHS leadership about the coming program year.

5/10/2022: Performance Progress Reporting

Watch this webinar to learn about submitting performance progress reports associated with COVID-19 funding. Hear from Office of Head Start staff on how grant recipients have used COVID-19 funds to serve children and families in creative and innovative ways.

5/4/2022: Correction to ACF-IM-HS-21-01 Updated COVID-19 Fiscal and Administrative Flexibilities

ACF-IM-HS-21-01 has been corrected to note the following waivers — prior approval for the purchase of equipment, budget modifications, and procurement by noncompetitive proposals — are in effect until M-21-20 Appendix 3 – Disaster Relief Flexibilities to Reduce Burden for Financial Assistance expires or is rescinded.

3/4/2022: Litigation Update

On March 4, 2022, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan denied the motion of the plaintiffs in Livingston, et al. v. Becerra, et al., 22-cv-10127 (E.D. Mich.) for a preliminary injunction and dissolved the temporary restraining order on the implementation and enforcement of the vaccine provision of the Vaccine and Mask Requirements to Mitigate the Spread of COVID-19 in Head Start Programs, 86 Fed. Reg. 68052 (Nov. 30, 2021) (the “Interim Final Rule” or “IFC”).

2/28/2022: Updated CDC Mask Recommendations

New CDC mask recommendations differ from the masking requirement in the Vaccine and Mask Requirements IFC. OHS is reviewing the new CDC recommendations and finalizing the regulation. While reviewing the guidelines, OHS will not evaluate compliance with the mask requirement in its program monitoring. At this time, the IFC remains the applicable regulation for Head Start programs.

2/16/2022: Auditing the Head Start Program: COVID-19 Implications and Other Program Updates

This webinar, co-sponsored by the Office of Head Start (OHS) and the Government Audit Quality Center (GAQC), provides information to assist auditors working with Head Start programs. Learn implications of legislation issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the American Rescue Plan Act. Explore changes made to the Head Start program section in the 2021 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Compliance Supplement. Review the unique financial, compliance, and operational aspects of the program, as well as areas of higher risk.

1/31/2022: Litigation Update

On January 31, 2022, following a decision by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, implementation and enforcement of the vaccine provision of the Vaccine and Mask Requirements to Mitigate the Spread of COVID-19 in Head Start Programs, 86 Fed. Reg. 68052 (Nov. 30, 2021) (the “Interim Final Rule” or “IFC”), was temporarily enjoined as to the 56 unvaccinated individuals identified in the Plaintiffs’ Complaint in Livingston, et al. v. Becerra, et al., 22-cv-10127 (E.D. Mich.), and the number of unvaccinated individuals then employed in Head Start programs in Walled Lake Consolidated School District. The motion was denied on March 4, 2022.

1/5/2022: Update on the Full Enrollment Initiative

In her latest blog, Dr. Futrell announces that OHS will not resume the evaluation of which programs will enter into the Full Enrollment Initiative beginning in January 2022 due to recent COVID-19 developments.

1/3/2022: Litigation Update

As of Jan. 1, 2022, following a decision by the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, implementation and enforcement of Vaccine and Mask Requirements to Mitigate the Spread of COVID-19 in Head Start Programs, 86 Fed. Reg. 68052 (Nov. 30, 2021) (the “Interim Final Rule” or “IFC”), is preliminarily enjoined in the following 24 states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Head Start, Early Head Start, and Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership grant recipients in those 24 states are not required to comply with the IFC pending future developments in the litigation. 

1/1/2022: Litigation Update

As of Dec. 31, 2021, following a decision by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, implementation and enforcement of the Vaccine and Mask Requirements to Mitigate the Spread of COVID-19 in Head Start Programs, 86 Fed. Reg. 68052 (Nov. 30, 2021) (the "Interim Final Rule" or IFC), is preliminarily enjoined in Texas. Head Start, Early Head Start, and Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership grant recipients in Texas are not required to comply with the IFC pending future developments in the litigation.

For older information, see Archived OHS COVID-19 Updates.